Communicating about vaccines? First, listen

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

July 12th, 2013

Editorial Team

‘Most people in Europe follow expert advice on immunisation but, because some opt out of vaccination, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases persist. What can be done to engage with groups that have questions about immunisation?’

Robb-ButlerHealth authorities and doctors are working to improve how they communicate about immunisation but, according to Robb Butler, WHO Regional Office for Europe, listening is the first step in engaging with the public. 

“I think it’s important that before they communicate, they listen, so that they can better tailor their immunisation programmes to the needs of those individuals and communities,” he said.

The WHO has published a new Guide to Tailoring Immunisation Programmes to help national immunisation programme managers to design targeted, evidence-based strategies for reaching sub-groups of the population which are susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Butler said “traditional” communication and outreach methods have been used to drive immunisation rates up to 85-90% but reaching the final 10% requires smarter approaches based on better intelligence from hard-to-reach groups.

In addition, immunisation should be made as convenient as possible, available at a time and place that suits parents. This can mean providing vaccination services outside working hours.

In addition, Butler said parents in some European countries are often expected to visit their doctor to get a prescription for a vaccine; then go to the pharmacy to buy the vaccine which they store in their fridge. Next they must make a second appointment at the clinic, bringing the vaccine and their child so that the doctor can administer the vaccine.

“That’s for one vaccine for one child. You can see how if you’ve got two or three children that’s a part-time job.”